Many, especially those in Twelve-Step Programs, will be familiar with what is known as The Serenity Prayer. The prayer was written by the famous 20th century Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.
The short form of the prayer (see above) is usually employed but there is also an extended version as well, the wording of which can be found on the link above to The Serenity Prayer. Here is the form of the prayer that is most widely known and used:
Some people have trouble with the word "God". I always say to such people, "As Krishnamurti used to say, 'The word is not the thing'." The word "God" means "God as you understand [God]", and I have come to understand the word as referring not so much to a supposed "Higher Power"---for I dislike that expression as it tends to suggest that there are supposedly "higher" and "lower" levels or orders of reality (which I believe is not the case, on both philosophical and scientific grounds) - but a "power-not-oneself".
I am very grateful, as are many others, to the late Rev. Dr Dilworth Lupton (1883-1972) [pictured above] (for more on him, see here as well as here), sometime minister of the First Unitarian Church (Universalist-Unitarian) in Cleveland, Ohio, and later of Waltham, Massachusetts, who used, and perhaps coined, the phrase "a power-not-ourselves". (I am, of course, aware of Matthew Arnold's oft-quoted "definition" of God as "the enduring power, not ourselves, which makes for righteousness".) See Lupton's sermon "Mr X and Alcoholics Anonymous" delivered on 26 November 1939 when AA was in its very early years. (For those interested, see also my address "Unitarianism and Alcoholics Anonymous".)
I have no difficulty in believing in a "power-not-myself" or a "power greater than myself". Why? Because there is no such thing as "self". Now, I know that is a hard concept for many to grasp, but I firmly believe it to be true. Dr John Hughlings Jackson (pictured immediately below), who was the founder of the (then known) British School of Neurology, wrote that there is something intrinsically wrong with our notion of the "self". Jackson demonstrated - yes, demonstrated - that consciousness is neither a fixed quantity or quality nor of fixed duration, but simply "something" quite intermittent in nature that undergoes change moment by moment.
The idea that there is no actual "self" at the centre of our conscious (or even unconscious) awareness comes as a great shock to many (except to Buddhists, who rightly assert not a doctrine of "no-self" but the fact of "not-self", and to various metaphysicians), but it is the view held by most, but not all, neuropsychiatrists, neuroscientists and other like professionals.
The truth is our consciousness goes through continuous fluctuations from moment to moment. As such, there is nothing to constitute, let alone sustain, a separate, transcendent "I" structure or entity. True, we have a sense of continuity of "self", but it is really an illusion. It has no "substance" in psychological reality. It is simply a mental construct composed of a continuous ever-changing process or confluence of impermanent components ("I-moments") which are cleverly synthesized by the mind in a way which appears to give them a singularity and a separate and independent existence and life of their own.
"Living in a state of psychic riot, he is thrilled one minute and dejected the next. One part of him is a danger to another part. So what can be trusted? Nothing. The self-knowing man has cleared his mental streets of these rioters, leaving him with a whole and healthy mind, which can be trusted completely."
Think about it for a moment ... how can the "self" change the "self", if self is non-existent? It can't. End of story. I love what William Temple (pictured immediately below) had to say about the matter. He said, "For the trouble is that we are self-centred, and no effort of the self can remove the self from the centre of its own endeavour." Therefore, let us free ourselves from all forms and notions of self-identification, self-absorption, self-obsession and self-centredness.
Now, if we want change - especially positive change - in our lives, we have to rely upon a "power-not-oneself" ... that is, the power of "not-self". Your such power may well be different from mine. That doesn't matter at all ... as long as we realize that the so-called "I", as Krishnamurti used to point out, is simply a habit and a series of words, memories and knowledge ... which is the past. Note that - the past. The "I" and "me" of us - and even the belief (actually, misbelief) "I am I" - are simply brought about by thought ... and thought is always a thing of the past as well.
The Serenity Prayer recognizes the importance of Mindfulness. Let me explain.
The Person Who Used to Be You
Forget About Having a 'Transcendental' Experience!
A Spiritual Guide to Mindful Living
Famous Christians on the 'Self'
Know Thyself! Unchain Thyself! Right Now! Right Now!
Your Mind is its Own Prison
The Mindful Art of Knowing Oneself